Not All Swine-Flu Vaccine Skeptics Are "Anti-Vaxxers"

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Oct. 5 2009 6:26 PM

Not All Swine-Flu Vaccine Skeptics Are "Anti-Vaxxers"

Amanda , I agree with about 95 percent of your post on vaccines. The "anti-vaxxers" drive me a little nutty, whether the argument is from the left (vaccines are unnatural) or the right (the government can’t make me vaccinate my kids). You don’t want to vaccinate your kids? Great. I hope you like home-schooling. Because I don’t want my children caught up in a measles or whooping cough outbreak because they go to public schools with unvaccinated children.

All that said, I cop to a wee bit of nervousness about the swine flu vaccine. I’m not afraid of "conspiracy theories and government misbehavior" like Rob Stein writes about in the Washington Post . And it’s not about the cost or the time out of my day. I’ve dutifully lined up my three kids for all the vaccines their pediatrician throws at them, and we’ve had almost no side effects. But those vaccines have been used for years. The H1N1 vaccine is new, and trials started in early August , with trials on kids starting a couple of weeks after that. And let’s not forget that in 1976, during an outbreak of the swine flu, one person died from the flu and 25 from complications from the vaccine .

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I know, I know. This flu strain is different, and this vaccine is supposed to be better , and early trials showed few side effects. Stein’s article quotes a flu vaccine expert from the Mayo Clinic as saying "People seem to be wired two ways. One group is wired this way: 'If there was something I could have done and didn't do and something happened, I would never forgive myself.' The other group is: 'If I do this and something happens, I'd never forgive myself.' "

Me, I feel like I’m in both groups, which makes for an impossible decision. Will my kids get the swine flu vaccine? Probably, assuming that my pediatrician thinks it’s safe. Will I personally? I dunno. But I think a lot of people are struggling with the same decision, and it’s not just the fringe.

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Rachael Larimore is a Slate senior editor.

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